Passive smoking or second hand smoking could be as dangerous as direct smoking. Passive smoking is nothing but breathing in someone else’s smoke. It has been said that a person living or working in a place where smoking is permitted increases the non-smokers’ risk of developing heart disease by 25–30% and lung cancer by 20–30%.

What is passive smoke?

When someone smokes a cigarette, the smoke from the burning tip is released into the air this is known as side stream smoke. Also the smoke inhaled by the smoker is exhaled which is known as mainstream smoke. Second hand smoke is a combination of this side stream and mainstream smoke.

Tobacco smoke inside a room tends to hang in mid-air rather than disperse. It can stay in the air for up to two and a half hours even with open windows. A person who smokes heavily indoors causes a permanent low lying smoke cloud that other householders have no choice but to breathe.

Second hand smoke contains around 7000 chemicals, many of which are irritants and toxins and some of which are known to cause cancer.

Health effects on adults
Passive smoking can affect each and every body part of the of your body right from simple hair to the most important organ of body heart.

Passive smoking can affect each and every body part of the of your body right from simple hair to the most important organ of body heart.

  • Heart – Passive smoking increases risk of heart disease. There is consistent evidence that people who do not smoke but live with people smoking have higher risks of congenital heart disease, heart attack, and angina.
  • Lungs – People who suffer long term exposure to second hand smoke have 20-30% higher risk of developing lung cancer. It also leads to worsening of pre-existing chest problems like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It also destructs the air sacs of lungs causing permanent damage to them.
  • Brain – passive smoking causes disturbance in the supply of blood to brain leading to stroke. It can affect any part of the brain leading to various problems like paralysis, inability to see, or speak or understand. It can also be a permanent damage.
    There have also been studies carried out showing the relation of passive smoking to dementia.
  • Blood – Even just 30 minutes of exposure to passive smoke can affect the blood flow in your blood vessels to a similar degree to that seen in people who smoke. It may also lead to the development of atherosclerosis (narrowing of blood vessels) thus affecting many parts of body.
  • Ear, nose and throat – second hand smoke is said to be associated with ear infection and hearing loss. It may also lead to nasal sinus cancer or throat cancer.
  • Hair – dry and smelly hair.
  • Skin – Long term second hand smoke exposure is associated with development of atopic dermatitis a type of skin infection.

Health effects on pregnant women and babies

Passive smoking can affect pregnant women in many ways which includes:

  • Increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Increased risk of premature birth or low birth weight.
  • Increased risk of complications during birth.
  • Cot death – also known as sudden infant death syndrome is also associated with passive smoking

Health effects on children
Second-hand smoke is particularly dangerous for children because their bodies are still developing.

A child who lives in a smoking household has an increased risk of

  • Developing asthma or if the child already has the condition it triggers it.
  • Developing a range of respiratory illnesses including bronchitis, bronchiolitis and pneumonia
  • Getting cough and cold
  • Middle ear disease, such as otitis media which can lead to hearing loss
  • Impaired respiratory function and slowed lung growth
  • Learning difficulties, developmental delays, and neurobehavioral effects
  • An increase in tooth decay

Children who grow up with a parent or family member who smokes are three times more likely to start smoking. If you are a parent who smokes, it will be hard to explain to your children why they should stop smoking. Try to lead by example and quit.

So, if you smoke and you are trying to quit, one good reason to give up smoking is to benefit lives of those who live and work with you, your family and your friends. If you cannot give up smoking, at least make an effort to keep cigarette smoke away from other people.